Warning Signs That You're Straining Your Eyes

Feb 01, 2024
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When you feel tired, headachy, and unfocused but can’t pinpoint the problem, it could be eye strain. Here’s how to spot the symptoms and how to avoid overworking your eyes.

Your eyes have muscles, and you can overwork and strain them just like your quads and biceps. Eye strain even has an official name — asthenopia — but it’s not a serious medical condition unless it becomes chronic or it’s a symptom of an underlying problem. 

Dr. Sophia Barnes sees a lot of eye strain cases at Vision Corner in Houston, Texas, and she can help you pinpoint the cause of your eye strain and correct any vision problems it’s triggered. Here’s an overview of eye strain, its causes, and how we treat it.

The many causes of eye strain

Overuse can strain your eyes and is one of the top culprits, but it’s not the only one. Here’s a look at the varied causes of eye strain.

Prolonged focusing

Whether reading a good book or a lengthy report, focusing on close-up material for extended periods strains your eyes. 

Many of our patients suffer from computer vision syndrome, caused by prolonged focus on digital screens, such as computers, tablets, and phones. Too many hours looking at text strains the ciliary muscles in your eyes. 

Bad lighting

Low light makes you strain your eyes to see, but overly bright light can be a problem, too. Harsh lighting leads to eye fatigue. Go for a happy medium and choose bulbs that provide soft but ample lighting where you work and do hobbies.

Eye muscle problems

Your eye muscles keep your eyes centered and working in concert with one another. If one muscle is weaker than another, the imbalance can cause one eye to drift in a different direction. An inward drift is called esophoria, and an outward drift is called exophoria — both can cause eye strain.

Vision problems

Any vision problem that goes uncorrected can cause eye strain. For example, if you have farsightedness or astigmatism and don’t wear corrective lenses, your eyes work hard to compensate for the problem and become strained. 

Poor posture

Ideally, your eyes should be an arm’s length away from your computer monitor, and your screen should be level with your eyes when you’re sitting up straight in your chair. If you’re slumping, your whole body works harder, including your eyes.

Spotting the warning signs of eye strain

You don’t have to wonder if you’re straining your eyes — they’ll let you know. Here are several of the warning signs:

  • Headaches: frequent headaches, particularly after reading, using a computer, or any task that requires intense focus
  • Blurred vision: difficulty focusing or blurred or double vision
  • Dry eyes: itchy, grainy, burning sensations
  • Watery eyes: excessive tearing in response to dry, strained eyes
  • Eye pain: sore, red, tired eyes

Neck or shoulder pain indicates poor posture while reading or using an electronic device. If your neck and shoulders ache, your eyes are likely overworking, too.

How to prevent eye strain

The good news is that there are several steps you can take to prevent eye strain.

If the strain relates to your work habits and hobbies, the best thing you can do for your eyes is to take breaks. Follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds to give your eyes a much-needed break and reduce fatigue.

Adjust your lighting and reestablish good posture.

Blue light glasses can reduce eye strain by blocking your digital screens' harmful rays. 

If your eye strain is due to vision problems, see Dr. Barnes for expert treatment to correct the condition. 

In fact, schedule regular eye exams at Vision Corner, where you get more extended visits, more personalized care, and an unrushed experience compared with corporate vision care facilities. Dr. Barnes provides a comprehensive eye exam to identify issues early and tailor treatment to your specific needs. 

If you've been experiencing any symptoms of eye strain, book your appointment online or call Vision Corner to schedule a thorough checkup.